HomeNewsFact check: Events and incidents used to justify the declaration of Martial Law.
Fact check: Events and incidents used to justify the declaration of Martial Law.
May 29, 2017
Updated: May 30, 2017
Part of the report submitted by the President to Congress include the events and incidents used to justify the declaration of Martial Law.The information is presumed to have come from the AFP. It is best to fact check these.
In the report, the President explains that martial law over the entire Mindanao is necessary because of the Maute Group’s intent to establish an ISIS province in the region. “The group’s occupation of Marawi City fulfills a strategic objective because of its terrain and the easy access it provides to other parts of Mindanao. Lawless armed groups have historically used provinces adjoining Marawi City as escape routes, supply lines, and backdoor passages,” reads the report.
Did the AFP feed Duterte fake news for the declaration of martial law in Mindanao?
Was there really a takeover of vital government buildings/ facilities that put the existence of the state in peril?
Below is a comparison of the incidents cited in the martial law report submitted to Congress and media reports on the claims.
1. Takeover of hospital
A hospital official dispelled reports that Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC) in Marawi was taken over by the terrorist Maute group as fighting between armed extremists and government troops continued over the weekend.
Amer Saber, APMC chief of hospital, said the report that the medical facility was overrun by the Maute was not true as he appealed to media outlets to verify their information before airing or publishing it.
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra disputed on Wednesday reports that the local police station and city jail were burned by the Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired Maute Group in light of the ongoing crisis in the area.
2. Marawi Police station burning
Speaking to CNN Philippines anchor Pinky Webb on The Source, Gandamra said that he had spoken with personnel from the local police station.
“Hindi po totoo na na-takeover nila ang police station at ang… city jail,” said Gandamra. “Meron pong reports talaga na merong… structure na inattempt nila na sunugin, pero ito po ay na-prevent ng mga personnel na nandoon sa police station.”
[Translation: It’s not true they took over the police station and… city jail. There are reports… that they tried to burn down a structure, but this was prevented by personnel from the police station.]
3. Killing of Dansalan College Foundation Faculty Members
Troops also cleared the Dansalan College and rescued 42 teachers who were trapped inside during the attack.
“Wala pong na-occupy na government facilities or offices as reported (Contrary to reports, there’s no takeover of government facilities),” Mayor Majul Gandamra said in a television interview with ABS CBN News Channel.
NOTES FROM THE GROUND: FACT-CHECKING THE MARTIAL LAW REPORT
Over the past few days, I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to fact check the claims made by the government in the seven-page martial law report submitted to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on May 25.
Here are some of the things that I discovered:
Martial Law Report: “The Maute Group also attacked Amai Pakpak Hospital and hoisted the DAESH flag there… They held hostage the employees of the Hospital and took over the PhilHealth office located thereat.”
Fact: Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC) chief Amer Saber denied that the hospital was overrun (http://bit.ly/2r2KR5Z), saying the members of the Maute group went there to seek treatment for a comrade.
In the same report published on May 29, DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial was quoted as saying that the hospital staff were never hostaged and that the hospital continue to be fully functional.
Incidentally, both the AFP and the PNP have already denied that the APMC was taken over by the Maute group.
Martial Law Report: Maute burned various education institutions, namely: Dansalan College Foundation, Ninoy Aquino College Foundation, and the Marawi Central Elementary Pilot School.
Fact: Of the three schools, only the Dansalan College was confirmed to have been burned by members of the Maute Group. This was confirmed by the photos released by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), which operates the school.
The fate of Senator Benigno Aquino College Foundation (not Ninoy Aquino) is unconfirmed. However, a source from the ground said he saw the school intact when he left Marawi City on May 24. Remember that the claim in the martial law report is that the burning happened on the night of May 23.
Finally, on the case of Marawi Central Elementary Pilot School, I have talked to Marawi City Assistant Divisions School Superintendent Ana Alonto last May 29. Alonto, who is in Marawi, says the school was not burned.
This was confirmed as well by DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali, who told me via text message on May 30 (citing information from the ground) that no fire was reported at the said school.
Martial Law Report: “About five faculty members of Dansalan College Foundation had been reportedly killed by the lawless groups.”
Fact: While this has been reported over and over again on social media during the height of the clashes on May 23, no official confirmation was ever made. What was confirmed was that the Dansalan College was burned and that seven personnel were taken hostage.
In its statement, the UCCP even appealed not to spread unconfirmed reports, in apparent reference to the reported death of the faculty members.
As of May 29, the AFP said the official number of confirmed civilian deaths is at 19 (http://bit.ly/2rAjVf4). Eight were recovered on May 27. Another eight were recovered on May 28. The martial law report was submitted on May 25.
Martial Law Report: “Lawless armed groups likewise ransacked the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and commandeered one of its armored vehicles.”
Fact: In a statement sent to me via e-mail, the LBP clarified that its Marawi City branch was not ransacked although it sustained some damage from the attack. Here’s the full statement:
“The LANDBANK Marawi Branch, as per latest reports from local ground sources, has suffered some damages from attacks by the Maute group. Meanwhile, clients of LANDBANK in Marawi are assured of continued service which is temporarily provided by LANDBANK branches in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.
This is also to clarify that the photo circulating on Facebook of a burnt down LANDBANK office is not the present LANDBANK Marawi Branch, but an image of the closed LANDBANK MSU (Mindanao State University) extension office (EO) that was slightly affected in 2014 by a fire that struck the adjacent building.
In 2012, LANDBANK transferred the operations of the said EO to Malita in Davao Occidental.
It is however confirmed that the armoured vehicle parked in front of the LANDBANK premises, owned by the Bank’s third-party provider, was seized by rebel forces last week, May 23. However, the vehicle was empty when it happened.”
Other Claims: Even before the martial law report was submitted to Congress, conflicting claims have already been made by different government officials.
For instance, President Duterte claimed that the chief of police of Mabalang town was beheaded by the terrorist groups. It was denied by the very same person whom the Chief Executive said was killed (http://bit.ly/2s9gk4D). Later reports said it was a former chief of police of Mabalang who died, but he was not beheaded.
In a press briefing in Moscow (http://bit.ly/2qeTebw), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also stated: “(They) started also to occupy some establishment (sic) in Marawi City. They occupied the Amai Pakpak Hospital, this is a hospital under the DOH, the City Hall, City Jail and part of the MSU compound.”
As stated, the Amai Pakpak was never taken over by the terrorists (see I). The same AFP press briefing earlier that day also denied that Maute occupied the City Hall. Moreover, an MSU official also told me that the campus is safe, citing information from the military.
The beheading of the police chief and the taking over of the city hall and part of the MSU compound were not included in the martial law report submitted to Congress.
The information contained in this post do not argue whether or not the declaration of martial law in Mindanao was the right thing to do. What it merely points out is that the report submitted to Congress contains information that are inconsistent with information from other government agencies.
Majority of the lawmakers seem to agree that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao is justified. I ask, though, where did they base their assessment?
NOTE: VIEWS ON THIS POST DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF MY COLLEAGUES, EDITORS AND EMPLOYERS.